Halo

Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Bungie
Release Date: Sept. 30, 2003

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'Halo' - Developer Interview

by Rainier on Aug. 26, 2003 @ 1:39 a.m. PDT

Halo, enhanced for play on the PC, contains all the action-packed combat and thrilling gameplay that made it a smash hit. Armed with a new arsenal of weapons and vehicles, Halo delivers challenges and surprises as well as intense online multiplayer competition exclusively for the PC.

Also check our previously posted Halo preview

1. Who has the honor to talk to us? State your name, rank and occupation!

I’m Randy Pitchford, the President of Gearbox Software.

2. How has the process been converting Halo from the Xbox to the PC? Any major problems arise? What do you think is the main difference between the Xbox & PC version? What is the PC version’ strong point?

RP: Bringing Halo to the PC has been a very exciting technical challenge. The PC version’s strong points are the graphics, the speed, the interface, the audio, the internet networking system and the new content (maps, weapons, vehicles, etc).

3. What are the system specs for running Halo full throttle? And what are the minimum specs? Is it still going to be fun & playable on its lowest settings? Does Halo play best on ATI or Nvidia based cards?

RP: Halo runs on a minimum system of a Pentium 3 with a GeForce 3mx – that’s running a custom fixed function graphics implementation. Halo’s min. spec. is a lot more forgiving than games I’ve played in the genre in the past. Microsoft is pretty hard core about the kind of experience it expects on the minimum specification and it’s really interesting to see that philosophy applied to Microsoft’s first FPS game on the PC. Halo really shines on a fast Pentium 4 with a recent DirectX 9 video card from ATI or nVidia. Both ATI and nVidia have been involved with the high end graphics pipeline and there are subtle differences. Preference between them is widely subjective at this point. The bottom line is that on the high end Halo’s custom pixel shaders on the PC are something to behold.

4. Since most of the press you have done says the game is finished, just bug fixing, how has that been going? Find your self playing more than fixing?

RP: We’re playing a lot. I’ve been playing in the beta at home to really understand the user’s experience. There’s going to be a new update to the beta tonight via the autopatcher – lots of cool new improvements in this update. I’ve also been playing the minimum specification system a lot to really understand what the low end guys’ experience is like.

5. Since you have re-written the pixel shaders and other portions of the graphics engine, will the Xbox have any chance in matching the PC visuals?

RP: It’s not really fair to compare a high-end PC game to what a console can do on your television. On the console, you’re looking at 480 interlaced lines. With the PC version I like to run at 1600x1200 (you can run at whatever resolution your video card supports). In my case, I’ve got three orders of magnitude more pixels than a television can draw. It’s just not fair anymore…

6. Have you made any changes to the physics engine, AI, path finding routines?

RP: Halo’s physics, AI and path finding are brilliant. We wouldn’t dream of touching it.

7. Since you will leave the Single player the same as the Xbox experience, do you think people will buy the PC version just for multiplayer and not care about the single player? Why this decision to not “add” to the singleplayer part of the game?

RP: The single player game is really good. It’s won awards and people love it. We wouldn’t dream of change it. We may dream of making more Halo single player content, but not change the story that started it all. While Halo is insanely successful on the Xbox, it may surprise you to learn that most PC gamers have not had a chance to play it all yet. Sure, we expect that tons of fans of the Xbox game are dying to get Halo PC so that they can play on the internet for the first time (especially with all of the new multiplayer features added this time around), but I think most people who get Halo PC will be experiencing it for the first time – we owe them a perfectly preserved yet enhanced treatment.

8. Are you planning to have any kind of role system in multiplayer, or will players be able to play all roles (i.e. sniper, heave weapons) all the time? Why this decision?

RP: On-line, you define your role by what weapons you carry. You can carry two. I like to have a Fuel Rod Gun (plasma mortar) and a Flamethrower. Both of these are new to the PC version, of course…

9. Will you be adding different player models such as regular soldiers so there aren’t 16 master chiefs running around in multiplayer?

RP: When considering where to spend our content development effort, we focused that on new things that added to the game. These are things like new weapons, vehicles, maps, etc. The game doesn’t change if my model looks different. I think that will be a fun thing for the modification guys to introduce.

10. With more and more massively multiplayer games appearing on the market, and regular multiplayer games featuring 32-64 players, don’t you think the 16 player limit in Halo is a bit on the small side?

RP: We often feel that 16 is a bit much for Halo. The CPL announced for their winter championship event that their $30,000 Halo PC tournament will be a five vs. five team game. Halo is not a massively multiplayer game. It’s about squad level tactics – it’s about vehicles and foot combat.

11. How many multiplayer modes will make the switch from Xbox to PC? And will there be new modes only seen in the PC version?

RP: Every thing you could do on the Xbox with competitive games is there plus some. The new options for custom game types are awesome. It’s like being a mod author without doing any programming – just flipping switches in the menus.

12. Will Halo have voice communication support in multiplayer?

RP: On the PC, this is usually best handled with the hardware. The Microsoft Sidewinder Voice Commander is a great tool for this. We really wanted to focus our efforts elsewhere since this is taken care of so well already.

13. How many total multiplayer maps will you have at launch? Will all the Xbox multiplayer maps be there? What are the new maps about? Will you release maybe more maps in a later stage as some sort of freebie?

RP: The Xbox had thirteen – all of them are included. We’ve created six new ones and these are really cream of the crop multiplayer maps – they were designed with a clear understanding of what’s fun about playing Halo on-line. We’ve got some great post-launch ideas for updates and these ideas are rapidly turning into plans. We’ll talk about it soon.

14. Now that Halo is on the PC (where many people believe it should have been in the first place), how far will you be supporting the mod community, via tools or 3rd party software?

RP: We’ll be releasing tools and tutorials around launch time. We’ll talk about more details soon. In the mean time, there’s lots of good discussion between fans and our developers on the Gearbox website forums at www.gearboxsoftware.com.

15. Will the vehicle control change from what we have seen in the Xbox? What did you have to do to make it work on PC?

RP: Besides the PC version fully supporting the mouse and keyboard, we really respect the design decisions that led to Halo’s controls.

16. What is the total weapons count up to now? What kind of new weapons will be added? What is your favorite weapon in the game and why?

RP: There are a lot of weapons – I lost count. The amazing thing is that they really are balanced well with each other. My favorite weapons right now are the new ones – the Flamethrower and the Mortar. I also can’t get enough of being the gunner on a Rocket Warthog – very fun.

17. Will we see a public beta test/demo before launch?

RP: We’ve been running a controlled, private beta for some time. I don’t think we’ll do a public beta or demo prior to launch.

18. How do you think Halo will stand up to the new team based FPS’ such as Breed?

RP: What’s Breed? I’m looking forward to Half-Life 2 and Doom 3. I think all of these games will do great and I’m really happy that Halo gets to lead the way with DirectX 9 graphics and a solid multiplayer game this year.

19. Lastly any update on the launch date or is it still late summer?

RP: Halo will be launching really soon. Expect an official press release about the launch date any-minute-now™.

20. Finally is there anything you would like to add?

RP: I can’t wait to play the game with the world at large. We’re having a lot of fun at the office, but I think the entire team is really looking forward to some new blood :)

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